Citizens want ideas for battling drug market

Date Published: 
November 11, 2016

Selbyville residents want to “take back” their neighborhood from drug addicts who are openly using and selling narcotics.

At the Nov. 7 Selbyville Town Council meeting, about seven Bunting’s Mill residents described Polly Branch Road as an “open-air drug market.”

One particular property has been a problem for years, said nearby resident, Jennifer DeGiovanni. People are drug dealing near the Route 54 intersection, just outside town limits.

“They need their fix right away,” DeGiovanni said. So the addicts drive right into her nearby housing development of Bunting’s Mill “to shoot up.”

And drug activity happens in broad daylight, said resident Kerry Topper.

The otherwise empty lot has trees, grass and scrub that provide cover for covert activity. Residents hear cars driving in the empty Polly Branch lot, even at night.

Meanwhile, “there are hundreds of packets and needles” around the site, DeGiovanni said, and local kids like exploring the nearby woods. It’s a parent’s nightmare that they should prick themselves with a dirty needle or meet an unsavory character. The property in question is also one field away from the back of Selbyville Middle School property.

“What can we do? What can you do to put more pressure [there]?” DeGiovanni asked. “Having one state trooper assigned to this area can’t do too much. We’re tired of it. We all have kids. We don’t want junkies coming in our neighborhood, in other neighborhoods.”

Delaware State Police are responsible for all unincorporated land outside any town limits. Even with Sussex County Council paying for extra enforcement, there are only one or two cars patrolling the southeast corner of Sussex County at any given time. Local municipalities only respond to more dire emergencies if DSP requests backup.

In this case, the unincorporated Polly Branch lot isn’t in Selbyville Police Department’s jurisdiction, although it’s almost completely surrounded by a 40-acre property that is within town limits.

Route 54 is a patchwork of properties that are/not in town limits. “We don’t do hostile annexation,” Jay Murray said, so individual landowners can apply for annexation, if their property touches a Selbyville boundary.

Across the U.S., heroin and opioid addiction is reaching epidemic proportions. Selbyville is not immune, Town Council noted.

To begin, Councilmember Jay Murray suggested increased enforcement of known heroin hotspots.

“We can put pressure on the property owner” to clear the brush that provides hiding spaces, Murray said. “It needs to be cleaned up … So the police have visibility.”

Ownership of the unincorporated lot isn’t immediately obvious, as the Sussex County online ownership records only list the owner as “Cemetery.”

The surrounding incorporated lot is managed by a Fenwick Island attorney.

Councilmembers agreed they should contact county and state legislature to pressure Delaware State Police to increase enforcement in Sussex County.

The residents also asked about hanging Neighborhood Watch signs.

Selbyville Police Chief Scott Collins was attending a training for live shooter incidents, so he was unavailable for comment.

Bunting’s Mill residents have been proactive. They’re emailing people in other neighborhoods to share ideas and warn them of potential dangers.

Mayor Clifton Murray encouraged people not to let any strangers in their homes. If anyone needs to make ‘an emergency phone call,’ just offer to call the police for them.

Other Selbyville residents offered safety advice: lock all your doors; get an alarm system; and set up “safe houses” where children can go anytime they feel alone or unsafe.

Most importantly, call the police whenever someone or something looks unusual. It’ll deter future criminal activity, and it’ll build up a record of suspicious activity, so police might dedicate more resources to it on their own.

Residents can request street light repairs and additions. People can call Town Hall to request new lights. Town Hall will work with Delmarva Power for installation. (South Bethany is undergoing a similar process and has reported that costs are minimal, as the electric company pays for the pole light itself.)

In other Selbyville news:

• Bethany Beach Police Department regularly uses Selbyville’s shooting range for officer certifications. Town Council approved a 10-year agreement in which BBPD will contribute about $20,000 dollars to improve the range. Meanwhile, their officers will be permitted to shoot on Wednesdays (and other days, on request), from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., excluding Sundays. Because the range is near the sewer plant, they must notify the Town before special shooting events. Guns shoot northward into a berm, said Councilmember Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr. This is not a public range.

• Once again, the Selbyville Halloween Parade and Selbyville Haunted Library were considered a big success.

• The Selbyville Christmas Parade will be Friday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m.

• McCabe Street repaving is finished, with financial help from the transportation funds of State Sen. Gerald Hocker Sr. and State Rep. Rich Collins.

• In water news, Selbyville is back under the approved limit for a chlorine byproduct called Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs). However, the State notice won’t be lifted until the Town has a four-quarter average back under the approved limit. The water notice was only for one section of town.

Meanwhile, the water aeration system is still scheduled for completion in April 2017, although there is a chance of delay for a delivery.

• The communications company Mobilitie had requested to build a utility pole in town. At this point, they’ve submitted a draft agreement, which Selbyville’s town solicitor is reviewing. Town Council won’t likely vote on the agreement for a few months, said Town Administrator Stacey Long. The company would lease the signal repeater, or booster, out to a single mobile carrier, like Sprint or Verizon. The Town would receive monetary compensation.

• Town Council approved a $200 donation for a World War I memorial in The Circle at Georgetown. It’s sponsored by the American Legion and organized by Sussex County Association of Towns. Two of the 17 names carved in granite came from Selbyville.

• Town Council voted to approve an accounting software upgrade, as Town Hall staff are suffering regular issues with payroll, accounting and utility billing. The technology budget has room for the $1,238 project, which includes server adjustments.

Selbyville Town Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m.